Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, hold hands as they arrive for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump urges Senate to vote after Kavanaugh’s fierce defence

After seeing Ford’s powerful testimony, White House aides and allies expressed concern that Kavanaugh would have an uphill climb to deliver a strong enough showing to match hers.

Glued to high-stakes testimony on his Supreme Court nominee, President Donald Trump and his allies were shaken by Christine Blasey Ford’s emotional appearance on Capitol Hill. But they stood by Judge Brett Kavanaugh after his forceful pushback against the woman who accused him of sexual misconduct.

Trump missed hardly a moment of the proceedings, relying on DVRs to keep up on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday from his private office on Air Force One as he travelled from New York to Washington, and continued monitoring back at the White House, where Ford’s voice echoed from TVs around the building.

Within moments of the eight-hour proceedings concluding, Trump tweeted his approval of Kavanaugh’s performance and called on the Senate to move swiftly to a vote. “His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting,” Trump said. “Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!”

Ford’s tearful recounting of allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school led Trump to express sympathy for Kavanaugh and his family for having to listen to the testimony, according to two Republicans close to the White House but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. They added that Trump expressed some frustration at the process — and the staff work — that led Kavanaugh to this point.

After seeing Ford’s powerful testimony, White House aides and allies expressed concern that Kavanaugh, whose nomination already seemed to be teetering, would have an uphill climb to deliver a strong enough showing to match hers.

White House officials believe Kavanaugh’s passionate denials of Ford’s claims, including the judge’s tearful description of the impact the accusations had on his family, met the challenge. A White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly said the West Wing saw the judge’s opening statement as “game changing” and said Trump appeared to be reacting positively.

Trump told associates after the hearing that he liked Kavanaugh’s fighting attitude and was critical of Democrats who he sees as politicizing the process, said a person familiar with his thinking who was not authorized to disclose private conversations. He was happy with Republicans on the committee, though he was not impressed with the questioning from an outside female prosecutor. While he acknowledges the vote will be close, he currently thinks they will get there.

Related: Trump says his past accusers influence thinking on Kavanaugh

Related: Christine Blasey Ford steps into spotlight; defiant Kavanaugh fights back

Signalling the continued White House support for Kavanaugh, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted praise for Sen. Lindsey Graham after the South Carolina Republican railed against Democrats, accusing them of treating Kavanaugh “despicably.” Sanders tweeted that Graham “has more decency and courage than every Democrat member of the committee combined. God bless him.”

Trump’s son, Donald Jr., also tweeted his review: “I love Kavanaugh’s tone. It’s nice to see a conservative man fight for his honour and his family against a 35 year old claim with ZERO evidence and lots of holes that amounts to nothing more than a political hit job by the Dems.”

Going into the hearing, Trump had grown increasingly frustrated, angry at members of his staff — and, in particular, White House counsel Don McGahn — for not better managing the confirmation process for his second Supreme Court nominee. McGahn, who is set to depart his post in coming weeks, had advocated for Kavanaugh, seeing his confirmation as the crowning achievement of his tenure — and part of a decades-long effort to install more conservatives on the high court.

Trump has also criticized Republican leaders in Congress for not speeding the process along, leading to days’ worth of revelations against Kavanaugh. White House aides have bemoaned the drip-drip-drip nature of the emerging allegations and thought a faster process could have avoided Ford’s testimony.

As the day unfolded, White House aides and allies offered a mix of optimism and frustration. Viewing the hearing from their desks, some aides expressed concerns that Ford appeared highly credible, though others noted there were still gaps in her decades-old story.

How the proceedings were playing out on television was a key anxiety. Some White House officials were not pleased with the questioning from Phoenix prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, saying she did not effectively target the weak spots in Ford’s narrative and worrying that the Democrats had seized the moment.

But many felt the proceeding took a turn once Kavanaugh appeared. Aides said they thought Kavanaugh was effectively fighting back and expressed optimism he could survive the process.

Trump has also told allies that he wished Kavanaugh’s Fox News interview Monday had gone better, believing it was a missed opportunity to change the momentum around the story, according to the two Republicans and another outside adviser. And White House allies noted the importance of how Fox would cover the proceedings in shaping Trump’s reactions.

___

Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed from Washington.

Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller And Catherine Lucey, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Coming Home: Penticton fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

World champion snowmobile racer seeks public’s help after dirt bikes were stolen in Penticton

The bikes, valued at $25,000 and $11,000, were stolen from the back of a locked truck on Sept. 12

Penticton teen cyclist allegedly struck by black Ford truck resulting in hematoma

The incident occurred at the intersection of Westminster Avenue West and Power Street

LyleXOX launches first solo exhibition at Liquidity Wines in OK Falls

The Canadian artist has amassed thousands of fans for his beautiful self-portraits using found items

Vees uphold winning streak with 7-3 victory against Centennials

The team is off to Prince George to take on the Spruce Kings tonight, puck drops at 7 p.m.

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

EDITORIAL: This is our election

It is up to the voting public to identify the issues in the upcoming federal election

B.C. company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Cyclists ride in Okanagan to support Rwandan schools

The 10th annual Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda has raised more than $100,000 in donations and counting

‘How does it even happen?’: Bear locks itself inside vehicle in Port Moody

It was apparent the suspect had gained entry with his ‘bear’ hands

Most Read